Meditation to Build Emotional Intelligence
by Mary E. Vandenack
The pandemic increased the virtual presence of many of my longtime favorites in the areas of meditation, mindfulness and yoga. This virtual presence created a great opportunity for expanded learning and study in these areas.
In a recent offering of Pema Chodron, the concept presented was that of using meditation to improve emotional intelligence. Chodron’s offerings identify certain emotional reactions that can be the basis for unhealthy life patterns.
Consider anger. There are many things throughout the day that might make us angry. Perhaps we leave our phone at home and have to turn around to get it and start the day late. Maybe we chose to wear a light-colored shirt and spilled some matcha green tea latte on it first thing in the morning.
Anger (and other emotions) can pass quickly. We get in trouble with them when we experience an emotion and then begin to tell ourselves a story about them. Stories can work two ways: we can tell stories that support our own negative self-perceptions or we can tell ourselves stories that harm relationships.
Let’s say that you arrive at the office with a cup of coffee and promptly spill it on your keyboard and all over your desk, including important notes that you left yourself to help you with the day’s projects. You get upset. Perhaps you utter an expletive. Then, you let the anger start a story: “Why does stuff like this always happen to me? I have so much to do and I am working so hard and now my day is ruined because I have to clean up the mess. Why am I so clumsy that I would spill my coffee? I can be such a loser.” At the end of this, your anger has built and you might continue to carry this into your day and your personal interactions.
Another example might be that you sent a loving text to your spouse, who didn’t respond. You keep checking your phone for a response. When there is none, your story could go in a variety of directions. You might go to worry. You might go to thinking your spouse is ignoring you and upset with you for some reason.
The transition from emotion to story to perpetuation of the emotion into something bigger happens quickly. Meditation can help us identify the stories we tell ourselves and learn to understand and manage our emotions in a positive manner. When we do so, our ability to communicate will improve, we will be less stressed, and our relationships will be more positive.
There are many ways to meditate. It doesn’t require sitting on a mat. Given the fact that I spend so much time sitting related to my work, I rarely sit and meditate. I prefer walking meditations or other forms of moving meditations. I do love yoga nidras and have loved doing those of Dharma Mittra throughout the pandemic. Just as the foods that are right for one person may not be the same as those for another person, the form of meditation that works for an individual is personal, and may change from time to time.
Meditation is simply about finding a practice that helps focus the mind. Meditation involves training the mind as to attention and awareness to achieve an emotionally calm state. In an emotionally calm state, I can detach myself from my stories and be aware of how they are affecting me, and begin to rewrite my stories by letting emotions be information rather than instigators of instant stories.
Mary Vandenack, while a lawyer by profession, has studied extensively in mind/body areas of fitness and wellness. She is Yoga Alliance RYT-200, Power Pilates certified and ACE certified.